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01.03.21 My top 10 albums of 202001.07.20 2019 in a nutshell - 101 essential albu
12.30.19 My 101 Favourite Albums of the 2010s11.28.19 My 10 Worst Albums of 2019
01.01.19 2018 in a nutshell - 101 essential albu

My top 10 albums of 2020

Somehow, amidst the all-encompassing global preoccupation with facemasks, artists continued to release music in 2020. In total, I’ve listened through just over 650 albums released this year, and although barely any actually have anything to do with facemasks per se, there are plenty of absolutely brilliant ones. Although the start of the year was somewhat slow for album releases, the latter part more than picked up the slack, and as a result, 2020 actually ended up having just as many great releases as 2019, if not more. Top 100 published on YouTube here: https://youtu.be/h0WQBcV-J_U
10Ana Roxanne
Because of a Flower


An experimental lullaby, oozing with ephemeral beauty built from a patchwork of serene subtle melodies, which are so gorgeously elegant that they're wholly calming. Its sheer calmness and tranquillity are almost otherworldly. If you let it work its subtle magic, and shut yourself off from the distractions of the outside world for three quarters of an hour, it’s proper shiver down the spine stuff. As the album’s Bandcamp page reveals, the predominant stimulus for these compositions was Roxanne’s journey towards identifying as intersex, and as this suggests, Because of a Flower is an album which works so perfectly precisely because it rejects the status quo and transcends the easy categories which we use to simplify our lives. Though few of us will have analogous experiences to Roxanne, the process of connecting with the album brings us to readily sense the beauty of her difference.
9Jan St. Werner
Molocular Meditation


A bizarre and eclectic collaboration between the frontman of Mouse on Mars and the late Mark E. Smith of The Fall. An album this radically avant-garde certainly won’t appeal to everyone, but for those who persevere, there’s a rich vein of satisfaction to be gleaned from the album’s leisurely understated progress through ideas and concepts. In many ways, it sounds something like a person’s stream of consciousness transposed into musical form. Although only a quarter of the length of its predecessor, the next track ‘Back to Animals’ is much more abrasive, and brooding in tone. Ever playful and fragmentary, it seems an album which is designed to obtusely reject every aspect of melody and harmony. Each time the album appears on the verge of breaking into a distinct melody, it pulls the rug of familiarity from under the listener’s feet.
8Run the Jewels
RTJ4


Judging by all the classic flows and verses on RTJ4, there’s still plenty of life in the classic Hip-Hop formula yet, even as the genre adjusts to spearheading the cultural mainstream, as opposed to being an underground culture. With such excellent tracks like ‘Walking in the Snow’, RTJ are on fire. Their anger at the ills of society shines like a beacon of hope, and the album’s release at the peak of the BLM protests could hardly have been more timely. The duo’s synergy too, seems to only strengthen with each successive release, and at this point Killer Mike and El-P really do sound like they were destined to rap in tandem. On RTJ4, all the features click into place effortlessly too. Although it must have been painstakingly refined for months on end to arrive in this flawless form, it feels entirely effortless and instantly classic as you listen through it. And the best thing of all? It’s available just like all their previous albums for free.
7Jeff Rosenstock
NO DREAM


No Dream finds Rosenstock railing against the unequal and dehumanising power structures of neoliberal capitalism just as vigorously as ever. These are straight-up anthems of defiance and non-conformity, practically begging to be screamed along with. As on the latter half of WORRY, the multitude of short songs format works brilliantly, parcellating the existential rage which permeates the album into neat snack-size portions, and building towards colossal emotional peaks. Although POST- was somewhat of a disappointment, NO DREAM picks back up exactly where the frenetic swells of existential angst which defined WORRY left off. In almost every way, it sounds like a direct spiritual successor to that earlier masterpiece. I mean, how many albums can you name with refrains which turn a crusade against the rise of AirBnB into an open invitation to rave along in the face of the futility of modern life? Its deep-seated nihilism is always presented in a format which is absolutely captivating.
6Deftones
Ohms


To call this simply metal would be akin to calling a formula one car a hatchback. As the field recordings of seabirds interposed into ‘Pompeji’ illustrate, Deftones are not interested in making music which can easily be categorised into neat genre labels. For listeners, that makes the end results of their endeavours endlessly interesting. The album’s aesthetic even draws close in some moments to riffing off of something akin to the characteristic sound pallette of My Bloody Valentine. With lyrics predicated upon death, rebirth, Biblical concepts of sin, and other fatalistic themes, it’s certainly quite bleak lyrically, and the album does a fantastic job of conveying that mood to its listeners. In particular, the performances throughout, are exceptional, elevating the album above much of the band’s back catalogue. Closing tracks ‘Headless’ and the album’s title track are an especially strong back-to-back pairing, in many senses saving the best for last, and delivering a crushing finale.
5BC Camplight
Shortly After Takeoff


SAT is defined by its exceptional, immersive storytelling, with tons of hilarious wry humour, which often probes the darker side human behaviour and motivations. It takes an acute writer to evoke human characters through so vividly trough the medium of song. Its enthralling observations on everyday life are a powerful antidote to disillusionment with our daily routines, doing a great job of defamiliarising the many parts of our lives we habitually take for granted. Also a fascinating portrait of moments in the life of an American living in the sleepy rural county of Cheshire in England. Lush orchestrations paired with mental angst. As a whole, the album all feels so brilliantly dysfunctional, really bringing a sense of humanity to the darker troubled emotions its songs coalesce around. Its a huge emotional rush to listen to, as a number of its songs start off downcast, but then gradually build towards joyful and uplifting finales, which never feel anything short of totally earnt.
4Havukruunu
Uinuos Syomein Sota


A truly exhilarating album, whose unfolding soundscape takes the listener on a journey with definite prog influences, particularly moments reminiscent of Pink Floyd. This is the sort of metal album which is so expansive that you can lose yourself in its flow. Equally however, the album’s brevity is an asset, and absolutely leaves the listener wanting more rather than less, giving it a very strong quality of replayability. It’s truly stunning that the band can achieve so much in such a short space of time, compared to many other epic albums. The album’s skilful layering of its vocals into a rather choir-like arrangement is a refreshing move beyond the monotonous norm of one-toned lyrical delivery in black metal. Populated by absolutely killer riffs, nuanced performances, and finished off by a beautiful and rather unexpected closing passage in the final track, which disarmingly finds solace in closure, and suitably wraps up the truly epic journey the album has treated listeners to.
3Priscilla Ermel
Origens Da Luz


Deeply rooted in the Brazilian lifeworld, Ermel’s music consists of a seamless blend of field recordings and compositions, and is truly an experience to hear, especially in this format. Collecting tracks from her four studio albums—of which three out of four were only ever released on vinyl, and in very limited quantities—the album’s producer John Gómez has managed to resequence Ermel’s decades-old work into a dazzlingly original form which breathes new life into her exceptional, yet largely forgotten, body of work. Purely on the grounds of the exceptionally high quality of the remastering, Origens da Luz is an entirely worthwhile listen for Ermel connoisseurs, as it’s a real treat to hear her compositions sounding this crisp and wholesome. Absolutely deserving a place on this list, because it’s far more than a best of compilation.
2Fiona Apple
Fetch The Bolt Cutters


Although Apple has never released a lacklustre album, this one is a clear highlight even amongst her illustrious catalogue. The found objects basis of the instrumentation gives the album an uncanny vibe, making it sound just that little bit disturbingly off-kilter, and it sounds fascinating and utterly distinct as a result. Perfectly paired with the album’s unusually raw performances from Apple, which really showcase the full range of her vocals, and which teeter on the edge of descending into pure rage. Strong lyrical focus on women’s experience, as usual, and narrates some engrossing stories throughout. Each of the thirteen songs here stands well on its own terms, as a significant musical statement on its own terms, but as a whole, they make for a real tour-de-force of an album that overflows with undistilled passion. Yet, it nevertheless exhibits Apple’s characteristic restraint, and her predilection towards creating moments of peculiar rhythm and unexpected beauty.
1No Joy
Motherhood


A relentless and wholly original synthesis of diverse genres, incorporating metal and electronica influences in addition to No Joy’s trademark leftfield take on shoegaze. The album exhibits a dazzling sonic polyphony which is entirely its own. This results in a dense and incredibly immersive soundscape, which changes constantly underfoot. Motherhood’s frenetic pace and frenzied aesthetic makes for a real rollercoaster ride, making the album as elusive and irascible as it is sublime. In many ways a concept album about the role of motherhood; a theme communicated to listeners throughout not merely via Motherhood’s enigmatic lyrics, but also its sequencing. Although the earlier half of the album is a constant adrenaline rush, its tracks become less ethereal, and more sedate and grounded as it proceeds. This gradual transition in tone gives listeners the lingering impression of time moving on, and life moving on alongside it. The GOAT.
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